SNA’s are becoming a very important topic for farmers that have what is called Indigenous Biodiversity on their land, with the proposed National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity coming out.

We see a lot of areas which have been designated as SNA’s due to a perceived high level of Indigenous biodiversity and are asking questions of the proposed NPS for Indigenous Biodiversity. 

As the saying goes “the devil is in the detail”!!! The proposed NPS does not just cover the designated SNA but also covers areas that are seen as connecting pathways between SNA’s, for the indigenous biodiversity. Sort of like the Claytons SNA the one you are getting when you’re not really getting one, but the one that still has some sting in its rules.

his NPS for Indigenous Biodiversity doesn’t take into account private property rights. The NPS does take away private property rights as landowners have been working under permitted activity rules since the RMA has come into legislation yet now under this NPS they are constrained in what they can do on their land. 

Many groups have come out and stated that landowners should be compensated if they were unable to develop or use their land productively.

Minister Shaw has stated that they would not be compensated because the policy would not stop them from using their land.

An example of the people paying for the government taking away private property rights was the Variation 5 for paying for the nitrogen to be taken out of the Lake Taupo Catchment. So using this example if the crown wants to impose conditions on Indigenous Biodiversity on private land surely they should either buy or compensate the landowners for imposing conditions of use on their land.

We see the three District Councils and the Regional Council Chair on the West Coast and two local runanga chairmen wrote to the Minister Hon James Shaw opposing the SNA process and only received a “generic response letter” back. Mayor Gibson was angered and disgusted by the Ministers comments on National Hine FM that “a group of Pakeha farmers from down south” were spreading misinformation about the proposals and pushing back against any regulation to protect environmental conditions on their land. 

Minister Shaw should be more careful in his statements, particularly in light of the proposed new “Hate Speech” legislation. This type of comment could be seen as an example of hate speech under that legislation as it is denigrating a particular group (i.e. “a group of Pakeha farmers from down south”) and by association denigrating all white farmers in NZ who oppose this SNA regime.

Minister Shaw should know better than to make statements like this in his role as a Minister of the Crown.

Minister James Shaw said existing activities would be able to continue on SNA’s providing they happen in partnership with nature. Some new activities could be possible with a resource consent the Minister said. 

The questions here are: 

  • What is the cost of the resource consent?
  • What will the resource consent achieve what is being achieved now?
  • Is this another challenge on private property rights?
  • How much money do private landowners put into are biodiversity on their land per hectare compared with the government?

The question needs to be asked why are these proposed SNA’s on private land? If you know how farmers think and that they believe in biodiversity, you would know that these areas were left either because had significant Biodiversity or they were better left because they protected lands and these areas of indigenous biodiversity added value to their properties.

 Even Forestry is being asked to protect indigenous biodiversity on their lands, when they plant trees to be commercial plantations they tend bring indigenous biodiversity with these plantings. Under their resource consents they have to plant back several meters from wetlands and these develop into indigenous biodiversity areas and are protected without having any more conditions put on foresters. Some of the people who are proposing SNA’s in forestry blocks are trying to use them to protect their hunting potential and this is another example of private landowner’s property rights being eroded.

This leads on to the government which needs to change from being a regulator to an enabler. Just like when the RMA was set up to become an enabling piece of legislation not a regulation piece as it is now. Enabling with conditions will allow people/businesses to achieve the results that are required and save money. If the government can save money through enabling people to do business then the money saved here can be spent on fixing up the basics like financial, transportation, health, housing, social police, education environment, etc.

The Prime Minister has made a clear statement that there would be no new taxes under her government this term yet here we have a tax by another name like many others that are being imposed such as the charge on ICE utes to fund the rebates for EV’s. The argument  can, and I am sure will be made, that this SNA legislation is not a tax but when you take into account the loss of private property rights it must fall into that category.

The short definition of a tax is:

“A tax is a compulsory financial charge or some other type of levy imposed on a taxpayer by a governmental organization”

 The designation of an SNA which takes away some private property rights surely falls within the definition of “some other type of levy imposed on a taxpayer by a governmental organization”.

The government seems to want to blame the rural sector for all the ill winds that blow through. There is no acknowledgement of all the good works that rural sectors have achieved so why do we need these NPS’s and NES’s? Is it to employ more unproductive people in bureaucracy?